Urban Cowboy

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Urban Cowboy
Urban cowboy Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Bridges
Produced by Irving Azoff
Robert Evans
Screenplay by James Bridges
Aaron Latham
Story by Aaron Latham
Starring John Travolta
Debra Winger
Scott Glenn
Barry Corbin
Madolyn Smith
Music by Ralph Burns
Cinematography Reynaldo Villalobos
Editing by David Rawlins
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 6, 1980 (1980-06-06)
Running time 132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $53,300,000 (USA)

Urban Cowboy is a 1980 American western romantic drama film about the love-hate relationship between Buford Uan Davis 'Bud' (John Travolta) and Sissy (Debra Winger). The movie captured the late 1970s/early 1980s popularity of country music. It was John Travolta's third major acting role after Saturday Night Fever and Grease.


'Bud' Davis moves from the small town of Spur, Texas to Pasadena, Texas, located near the heavily industrial eastern side of Houston, and a better paying job in the city's oil refinery in hopes of saving enough money to move back to his hometown and buy some land.[1] Bud moves in with his Uncle Bob (Barry Corbin) and his family, to whom Bud is close. Bob takes Bud to the local honky tonk, Gilley's (at the time, an actual bar in Pasadena, co-owned by singer Mickey Gilley and his record producer Sherwood Cryer which was then claimed to be the largest indoor (enclosed) bar in the world). Bud quickly embraces the local nightlife there. Most of the events take place in and around Gilley's.

At the club, Bud is approached by Sissy (Debra Winger), who asks if he is a real cowboy. The two dance together, showcasing Travolta's dancing abilities, and they fall in love. After a fight, Bud suddenly asks Sissy if she wants to marry him, and they are married in Gilley's. Bud and Sissy have many lovers' quarrels, some very intense, mainly due to their different views of men and women in society. Sissy is a fiery independent woman, with a strong belief that anything men can do women can do, while Bud still believes in very traditional gender roles, and that "there are just some things girls can't do." However, their love for each other always brings them back together again. Their lives settle into a routine of hard work during the day and living it up at Gilley's during the night. (The movie's tagline is "Hard hat days and honky-tonk nights.")

Bud, who is drunk one morning, almost loses his life in a fall on the job, only to be saved by his legs being tangled up by the scaffolding. Bud & Sissy argue at the supper table then quickly make up only to go out to Gilley's again. Bud catches Sissy on the mechanical bull; this starts a contest between Bud & Sissy. Bud reaches down to turn the bull up as he stands back up, Wes (the guy that runs the bull, and Bud's hated rival) turns the bull back around fast and breaks Bud's arm.

The movie also highlights the many fights between cowboys at Gilley's and the mechanical bull, which leads to a break-up of Bud and Sissy's relationship, and to Sissy moving in with Bud's arch-rival, Wes (Scott Glenn). Bud seeks solace with Pam (Madolyn Smith).

Meanwhile,Bud's uncle, Bob loses his life in an explosion on the job during a lightning storm, and Bud attends the funeral.

Bud wins the cash prize on the mechanical bull back at Gilley's.

Pam eventually realizes that Bud still loves Sissy and encourages him to reconcile with her. Meanwhile, Wes has been beating Sissy, and then steals the prize money from the bull riding competition, resulting in a fight with Bud. Bud punches Wes and all of the money that Wes had stolen falls from his jacket. The club's manager, discovering the attempted robbery, detains Wes at gunpoint. Bud and Sissy finally depart Gilley's (the source and location of most of their troubles) together.



The film's screenplay was adapted by Aaron Latham and James Bridges from an article by the same name in Esquire Magazine written by Latham. The movie was directed by Bridges. Some film critics referred to the movie as a country music version of Saturday Night Fever. The film grossed almost $47 million in the United States alone, and recovered Travolta from the flop "Moment by Moment" (1978), but the film was nowhere near as successful as either "Saturday Night Fever" ($94 million) or "Grease" ($188 million).

While filming Urban Cowboy, John Travolta had a private corner at the Westheimer Road location of the Ninfa's restaurant in Houston.[2]

Urban Cowboy was the first motion picture to be choreographed by Patsy Swayze, which launched her career as a film choreographer.[3]

John Travolta, et al, rented a home in the Memorial area overlooking Buffalo Bayou on or about 110 Shasta Drive, Houston, Texas 77024. The entourage was frequently seen driving back and forth down Lindenwood Drive and Shasta Drive while filming in Houston.

Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie received a 77% "Fresh" rating.[4] "Urban Cowboy is not only most entertaining but also first-rate social criticism," said Vincent Canby of The New York Times.[5] Variety's staff members wrote, "Director James Bridges has ably captured the atmosphere of one of the most famous chip-kicker hangouts of all: Gilley's Club on the outskirts of Houston."[6]


The movie spawned a hit soundtrack album featuring such songs as "Lookin' for Love" by Johnny Lee, "Stand by Me" by Mickey Gilley, "Look What You've Done to Me" by Boz Scaggs, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band, "Could I Have This Dance" by Anne Murray, and "Love the World Away" by Kenny Rogers. The film is said to have started the 1980s boom in pop-country music known as the "Urban Cowboy Movement" also known as Neo-Country or Hill Boogie.

Urban Cowboy
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released 1980
Genre Country, Pop
Label Full Moon, Asylum
Producer Irving Azoff (exec.)

Released as a double LP,[7] re-released on CD in 1995.[8]

Side A:

  1. Hello Texas – Jimmy Buffett (2:33)
  2. All Night Long – Joe Walsh (3:50)
  3. Times Like These – Dan Fogelberg (3:02)
  4. Nine TonightBob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band (6:35)

Side B:

  1. Stand by Me – Mickey Gilley (3:35)
  2. Cherokee Fiddle – Johnny Lee (4:06)
  3. Could I Have This DanceAnne Murray (3:14)
  4. Lyin' EyesThe Eagles (6:23)

Side C:

  1. Lookin' for LoveJohnny Lee (3:41)
  2. Don't it Make You Want to Dance – Bonnie Raitt (3:29)
  3. The Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Band (3:35)
  4. Here Comes the Hurt AgainMickey Gilley (2:41)
  5. Orange Blossom Special / Hoedown – Gilley's "Urban Cowboy" Band (2:06)

Side D:

  1. Love the World AwayKenny Rogers (3:11)
  2. Falling in Love for the Night – Charlie Daniels Band (3:00)
  3. Darlin' – Bonnie Raitt (2:34)
  4. Look What You've Done to MeBoz Scaggs (5:39)
  5. Hearts Against the Wind – Linda Ronstadt with J.D. Souther (2:58)

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 1
U.S. Billboard 200 3
Canadian RPM Country Albums 2
Canadian RPM Top Albums 21
Preceded by
Music Man by Waylon Jennings
Horizon by Eddie Rabbitt
Top Country Albums number-one album
August 2 – September 6, 1980
September 20–27, 1980
Succeeded by
Horizon by Eddie Rabbitt
Honeysuckle Rose by Willie Nelson

See also[edit]


External links[edit]